Category: ww1 history

French Chasseurs alpins on patrol.

French Chasseurs alpins on patrol.

Former Tsarist officers labor in Petrograd. In…

Former Tsarist officers labor in Petrograd. In February and March 1918, War Commissar Leon Trotsky called for imperial officers to help lead the new Red Army. 8,000 volunteered to escape unemployment and to to continue fighting the Germans. Later in the war, however, Trotsky was forced to conscript ex-imperial officers. Although officially “military experts,” many of the Red Army’s leaders were closer to hostages, as their families would be held accountable if officers failed or defected to the anti-Bolshevik Whites. This system proved effective and created stable, competent leadership for the Red Army.

February 25, 1918 – Russian Army Demobilized, …

February 25, 1918 – Russian Army Demobilized, Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army Formed

Pictured – Are you among the volunteers?

Was the Bolshevik revolution to be stillborn? On February 23, Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin convinced the Bolshevik Central Committee to accept peace with Germany. The terms were devastating: Russia lost all claims to the Baltic, Ukraine, and Finland, while the Germans would keep the land they had occupied since breaking the armistice. Germany also demanded the Russian Army be demobilized. The Bolsheviks only agreed to peace after a stormy session where Lenin threatened to resign if no conclusion was reached.

The peace was to be signed in March, but already its effects were clear. It put Petrograd almost in German hands; the Bolsheviks would have to leave for Moscow. Moreover, even if peace was made with the Germans, the soviet regime could obviously not be left defenseless in the face of its many enemies. With the Russian army gone now both officially and quite literally, scattered in every direction by the Central Powers’ invasion, a new army had to be formed.

That week the Bolsheviks began calling for volunteers for a new revolutionary army. 60,000 workers in Petrograd signed up to be a part of the Workers’ and Peasents’ Red Army. Trotsky appealed to former imperial officers to sign up as well. Over 8,000 did. Although few Russian officers sympathized with the October Revolution, most of them had been left unemployed, while they also desired to continue fighting against the Germans. Despite these initial recruiting successes, morale remained low. Thousands of men deserted quickly, leaving the Red Army with a strength of only 150,000 men by March. Worse, organization was hap-hazard. Many units elected their own officers, and the Bolsheviks had abolished the military’s rank structure. In battle against experienced German troops the nascent Red Army stood no chance.

Falkenhayn Departs From Ottoman Service

Otto Liman von Sanders (1855-1929), center, pictured with Oswald Boelcke, right, before his death in 1916, and another pilot.

February 25 1918, Damascus–Since his dismissal from overall command of German forces, Falkenhayn had been increasingly sidelined–first to Romania, and then to command the new joint Turko-German Yildirim Army Group in the Middle East.  The original plan for Yildirim had been to retake Baghdad, but this was eventually called off; Falkenhayn’s more ambitious plans for another attack across the Sinai were forestalled by Allenby’s own very successful offensive in Palestine in the fall of 1917.  As a result, Falkenhayn’s chief accomplishment of his Ottoman service was the loss of Jerusalem and most of the rest of Palestine.  On February 25, Falkenhayn was dismissed and replaced by Liman von Sanders, who had had overall command of the successful Turkish defense at Gallipoli.  Falkenhayn was sent to command the Tenth Army in Belarus, where he would command the German occupation of the area for the remainder of the war.

Ultimately, neither Falkenhayn nor Liman von Sanders were quite up to the task of defending against the British.  One of Liman von Sanders’ Turkish staff officers would write:

The policy of Falkenhayn was defense by maneuver; that of Liman defense by resistance in trenches.  Falkenhayn never fully realized how difficult maneuver was to troops short of transport on bad roads; Liman never realized that ground in Palestine had not the value it had at Gallipoli.

Sources include: Roger Ford, Eden to Armageddon

Today in 1917: U-Boat Sinks Laconia, Kills Two Americans

Today in 1916: Fort Douaumont Falls to Germans
Today in 1915: Enver Pasha Orders Disarming of Armenian Soldiers

Feb 25 1918 James McBey paints “field gu…

Feb 25 1918 James McBey paints “field gun emplacements, with the artillery pieces covered by camouflage netting supported by struts. Both are served by teams of gunners wearing pith helmets”

Feb 25 1918 French airship of the Eclaireur Zo…

Feb 25 1918 French airship of the Eclaireur Zodiac Class at Les Marquises aerodrome, near Boulogne-sur-Mer

Private Ernest Cooper Davey 3496. Unit: 57th B…

Private Ernest Cooper Davey 3496. Unit: 57th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force Killed in Action in Feb 25 1918

NZ Soldier’s Club which was built at the…

NZ Soldier’s Club which was built at the corner of Cuba and George Streets by the Patriotic Society in 1917. A fundraiser ran from Feb 25 1918 for 3 to 4 weeks, raising £20,000

Feb 25 1918 Florizel wrecked at Cappahayden, N…

Feb 25 1918 Florizel wrecked at Cappahayden, Newfoundland

Feb 25 1918 United Kingdom collier Rubio struc…

Feb 25 1918 United Kingdom collier Rubio struck a mine, laid by UC-4, and sank in the North Sea off the Shipwash Lightship ( United Kingdom). Her crew survived